I couldn’t bear to drive all the way to the fabric store for only four buttons, so I bought a shirt pattern and some yardage too so the gas wouldn’t have been wasted. (This is true.) It was a simple style. I’ve made a couple hundred similar shirts for Dave and although he and I have way different topography, I thought this should be a snap.

I’m no whiz. My least favorite part of sewing is the cutting out of the fabric pieces, followed closely by the sewing of them.  Sewing is a straightforward process. My mom taught me. All you need is a machine, a seam ripper, and a few choice words I didn’t learn from my mom. I opened up my pattern and pulled out the instructions. Oh, crap my pants.

This isn’t a simple shirt. This is a “3-hour perfect fit shirt.” In other words, this pattern is going to ask more of me than I ask of it. And three hours won’t even get me to the fabric cutting. Did I ask for a perfect fit? I did not. The deal is, you buy the pattern, you sew the shirt, and if it gaps weirdly in the front or bunches up funny, you hang it in the closet and give it away in twenty years.

“First, buy the right size,” it says in the instructions. I always review the measurement table for the various sizes, just for drill, but I’m invariably on the cusp. Or I suspect I am: I haven’t actually measured myself since I was an adolescent wondering where it would all stop. Then I give up and pick Medium because it seems the least controversial.

To find your right size, it says here, you measure your high bust.

I’ve never heard of such a thing, but I know I don’t have one. Nothing on me is at all high. If I even have a bust line, my bust is nowhere near it anymore. That bust line is more like a chalk outline in a murder scene. My body parts have gone nomadic. There’s no point looking for them where I remember seeing them last. They could be anywhere by now.

So. Medium it is.

Then the instructions get peppy. “Don’t waste time sewing a garment that doesn’t fit!” it chirps, without suggesting anything better to waste time on. Four pages of alteration possibilities ensue, for women with broad backs; with square, sloping, broad, or narrow shoulders; with a full bust; a hump; advanced osteoporosis; skin tags; a third nipple; an alien. In order to determine how well or badly the basic pattern fits your private scenery, you are to cut the pattern tissue, pin the pieces together, and stick it right on your actual body.

Good one! Pattern tissue has the integrity of a moth wing and it will tear if you so much as look at it crossly. Not to fear: you are to iron the tissue, cut around your pieces, and then reinforce the seam lines with tiny lengths of Scotch Magic tape (in the green box, it says). You’re going to want lots of little pieces of tape, and then you snip the tissue to the tape in a sawtooth pattern, and then pin all the pieces together and try the thing on, and see if (for instance) the center front actually achieves your own personal center front or comes up a little shy, in which case you consult the alteration lines on the tissue and then there’s more cutting and taping, folding and pleating, slicing and dicing, and a strategic introduction of dart lines.

If done correctly the tissue should have a confetti look to it. Carefully transfer the ribbons of tissue to the fabric, close your eyes, and start cutting.

We’re a week into this now and only just getting to the part I hate the most: the beginning. It’s like opening the pantry for a peanut-butter sandwich and finding a bag of peanuts and a tray of wheat starts.

But it all worked out. Fabulous, in fact, with a kicky two-tiered ruffled peplum, Juliet sleeves, keyhole neckline, side slits, and a hammer loop! And there’s fabric left over for fringe.

It was supposed to be a camp shirt, but done is done.